Meet the Chef: Colin Barker, Megalong Restaurant

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There’s a new “paddock to plate” fine-dining venture creating a buzz in the Megalong Valley – and for Executive Chef Colin Barker, being involved literally from the ground up at Megalong Restaurant at Lot101 is an essential part of his creative process. We meet this lauded chef and learn about his inspiration.

What is your background in restaurants?

During my apprenticeship, I trialled at one of Australia’s best restaurants at the time, Banc in Martin Place and subsequently moved to the city to take the role. When Banc closed, I took on a Sous Chef role at Assiette in Surry Hills, before moving to London to work at Michelin-starred restaurant The Ledbury. I’m probably best known for my role at Sydney dining institution The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay, which I ran for 13 years before its closure during the pandemic in 2020. I then started my own hospitality consultation company which was the beginning of the Lot101 project.

How did you come to be involved with Lot101?

I have a family connection with my business partners and property owners at Lot101. We travelled to the farm for a barbecue mid 2020, and the Lot101 concept was born.

How important is it to you to have been involved with the farm from the start, and be part of the planning process?

It’s been a pivotal part of the build - the farm drives the day-to-day menu planning and operations at the restaurant. Our crop and cattle rotations take an enormous amount of forward planning, and then there’s the harvest, processing, slaughter, transport, butchery, preserving etc before we even look at a menu. It’s a challenge but very enjoyable.

How closely do you work with the garden team?

Given that the restaurant sits at the heart of the Lot101 food bowl, we are in constant contact with the farm team throughout the day. The day usually starts with an early morning garden walk-through and then a bit of menu planning, followed by harvest. On top of the day-to-day, we do a lot of work together regarding upcoming seasonal plantings and crop quantities.

What is your inspiration behind the restaurant?

We want to showcase that you can produce great food in a low impact, sustainable manner and improve the soil, water and environment around whilst doing so. Our menu changes daily depending on what is at its best. It can be quite challenging at times, particularly with relation to our whole beast butchery approach. The morning garden walk is always the best way to get inspiration for the evening’s menu.

Are all the ingredients you use locally-grown/farmed?

We are trying to be as self-sustaining as we can be, and if we can’t produce it, we try to source as locally as possible. One hundred percent of the fruit, veggies, protein, eggs and honey is off our farm or neighbouring farms in the valley.

What do diners at Megalong Restaurant have to look forward to this Winter?

Winter is probably the best time to dine in the Mountains. We have two open fireplaces in our dining room as well as our wood oven and grill in the kitchen, so it’s a very cosy feel. Recent cold weather has seen a real boost in sweetness in our vegetable production and has seen the menu shift to heartier richer dishes and cookery methods in the kitchen.

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